The narrator's perception of himself before his descent underground was that of a studious, dutiful son—someone who behaved according to others' expectations:
All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory.
This contradiction is illustrated by his realization that his grandfather, who had been praised by whites as "an example of desirable conduct," considered himself a "traitor" due to his willingness to comply with white expectations. The narrator, prior to the Battle Royal , has a similar feeling, thinking that when he was praised for exemplary conduct, he "was doing something that was really against the wishes of the white folks" and "that if they had understood they would have desired me to act . . . sulky and mean." Here, his identity is predetermined by both racist prejudices against black people, white standards of black...
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